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Old April 6th, 2008, 01:11 AM   #1
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Can Sound be done on Desktop?

Hi
I'm recording sound on an ME66/K6 with a K-tek windshield system. That's being connected to my camera (JVC 111E) via XLR. That's the only setup I have (or can afford), and I'm shooting a feature film with both outdoor and indoor work.

Now, the question is, after having recorded the sound live (assuming there are no clippings and the audio is as clean as it can get on an ME66 and Camera Compression), I need to mix: dialog, ambient effects (or additional SFX) and music. I tried this for a short film I made in January with Audition CS3 and a good headphone, but I got lost. Is it possible to mix a professional sounding stereo and/or 5.1 track with this kind of setup. I understand for 5.1, I'll need audio monitors (but can it be done with nice 5.1 home theater speakers?). Should the peak amplitude be at -3dB for the sound, should the dialogs have one amplitude range, effects another and music another, etc? I got so confused at the end, I had to give it up because I had no reference point. I wasn't even sure whether I should be doing it this way. Hence the question.

I'm trying to avoid recording in a studio (budget reasons). At this day and age, video can be recorded and edited on a desktop/laptop. Is it true for sound as well? Can I use the above setup ONLY and get professional quality sound? Will this sound hold in a movie hall when played on their high-end speakers?

I know this question might sound more like wishful thinking, but then again, I have no other options. Please help!
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Old April 6th, 2008, 04:21 AM   #2
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Sareesh,

Well, the technical answer is "of course."

Sound can be created on a desktop computer system in precisely the same fashion that ART can be created with a pencil and a piece of paper.

The tools have less to do with it than the TALENT.

Give someone who knows HOW to do something well, modest tools - and they'll always turn in work far superior to what you get giving excellent tools to someone who doesn't yet know how to do their job properly.

I suspect it's not going to be a matter of tools, however - but the same problem you get giving fine oil paints to a relatively new painter.

It's always talent and experience first - tools second in all the creative arts.

Good luck.
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Old April 6th, 2008, 10:58 AM   #3
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Certainly audio can be done perfectly well with a desktop system. What you need in addition is a decent monitoring system and fairly quiet and acoustically innert room. Unfortunatelly good enough monitors and maybe subwoofer easily cost more than the PC. After having the system set up it is just practice and studying, maybe sitting behind somebody while they do similar jobs.

The rule of thumb about levels is dialog around -20 to -12 dBFS, loudest parts of the mix at -6 dBFS, never higher than -3 dB. Music & effects where ever they feel right (I do no like the music to be too loud). When the mix is done I usually do a slight compression like 1:2 for the top 25 dB range and lift levels accordingly.
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Old April 6th, 2008, 12:29 PM   #4
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I would NOT use home theater speakers. they are peaky, the supplied amps have all sorts of weird environment setups to simulate difference spaces. this applied EQ and reverb, and maybe some channel mixing for the effect. if you mix with one of them one you'll not be a happy camper.

get 5 decent near field monitors, tune them in the room, and start from there. also get some out output better then the mobo ones because almost all of them are pretty poor. do they work ? yes, do they sound as good as a decent sound IO card / interface, NO.

as for the room, one that is dead acoustically is a poor place to mix because no one will listen to a mix this way. every studio and recording studio I've been in that was good is a mix of live surfaces, diffusers, and a few strategically placed absorbers to kill bad reflections. the shape of the room is most important - square rooms, don't even think of it due to perfect standing waves. standing waves BAD. a room thats too small is also bad. don't put large speakers into a small room. most folks don't realize you only need a few watts to have plenty of loudness. I've got some 50W self-powered speakers that will drive you out of the room at more then 1/2 power.


there is a lot info out there about setting up a room for mixing. headphones do not work.so you'll need to spend some money here. personally I like the Maudio MA5's as cheap but accurate - $300/pair. they do well with dialog and don't color the sound too much. KRK's used to be nice, but now are pretty muddy for dialog work. best thing to do is make a CD with GTR, dialog, some SFX and listen to them on everything in the store. the best speakers for the job will stand out. if you don't like any of them, go somewhere else. FWIW, the best mid range speakers I heard where dynaudio's at $500 ea. that would be $2500 for you + you still need a sub.
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Old April 7th, 2008, 03:38 AM   #5
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One thing to add: no not even dream about mixing 5.1 before you have mastered mixing stereo. That means several years. No point in investing in a surround system now. Just get a pair of small Genelecs + sub now, get 3 more few years later...

With acoustically innert I did not mean dead, just that it is predictable and NEUTRAL.
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Old April 7th, 2008, 04:03 AM   #6
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Hi Sareesh........

Just have to ask this, as I'm puzzled:

Ok, there you are living in the middle of BollyWood, surrounded by some of the best sound guys India has to offer (and some of 'em are damn good!).

I know you're trying to trim expense to the bone for an Indie shoot, but I think a bit of lateral thinking may be required here.

Why not sus out a decent sound guy who already has a system set up and the experience to use it to good effect, and just dump the whole exercise on him? (hey, play Director/ Producer!)

At the end of the day, the "Jack of All Tades" thing was and is still valid, you cannot possibly "do it all" and turn out a great product.

Get a pro to moonlight or whatever, but get a pro.

Don't need a studio, just the right gear and someone who can use it. The learning curve for you on this production is going to be so steep you cannot possibly hope to make it (or at least make it sound professional).

If you want this to play pro, you have to do pro.

Just my 2 rupees worth.


CS


PS. BTW, check your "Helping Hands" postbox.
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Old April 9th, 2008, 07:03 AM   #7
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You're right

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Soucy View Post
Just have to ask this, as I'm puzzled:

Ok, there you are living in the middle of BollyWood, surrounded by some of the best sound guys India has to offer (and some of 'em are damn good!).

I know you're trying to trim expense to the bone for an Indie shoot, but I think a bit of lateral thinking may be required here.

Why not sus out a decent sound guy who already has a system set up and the experience to use it to good effect, and just dump the whole exercise on him? (hey, play Director/ Producer!)

At the end of the day, the "Jack of All Tades" thing was and is still valid, you cannot possibly "do it all" and turn out a great product.

Get a pro to moonlight or whatever, but get a pro.

Don't need a studio, just the right gear and someone who can use it. The learning curve for you on this production is going to be so steep you cannot possibly hope to make it (or at least make it sound professional).

If you want this to play pro, you have to do pro.

Just my 2 rupees worth.


CS


PS. BTW, check your "Helping Hands" postbox.
Well actually I'm already doing that really. :) I'm meeting a few sound guys and am going to visit a few studios next week when I'll be in Mumbai. I'm also talking to composers who have their own setups at home. But my question really was whether an engineer could do it in a room...and I guess the general consensus seems to be that it's absolutely possible...this is something I can use when I talk to these studios...who'll obviously try to sell me their expensive services!

BTW...it's more than 2 rupees worth, Chris. Thanks a lot!
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Old April 9th, 2008, 07:11 AM   #8
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This is what I was looking for!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Petri Kaipiainen View Post
Certainly audio can be done perfectly well with a desktop system. What you need in addition is a decent monitoring system and fairly quiet and acoustically innert room. Unfortunatelly good enough monitors and maybe subwoofer easily cost more than the PC. After having the system set up it is just practice and studying, maybe sitting behind somebody while they do similar jobs.

The rule of thumb about levels is dialog around -20 to -12 dBFS, loudest parts of the mix at -6 dBFS, never higher than -3 dB. Music & effects where ever they feel right (I do no like the music to be too loud). When the mix is done I usually do a slight compression like 1:2 for the top 25 dB range and lift levels accordingly.
This is great information Petri, and I'm grateful! I was planning to use a composer's studio or a cheap studio setup and find a talented guy to do the rest. Certainly, doing this is beyond me (for now at least). I think I'll do well to just learn it firsthand and then try my hands at it.

Just a few questions:
1. Wouldn't -20 sound too quiet for dialog? Why is there a huge gap between the average level (-20) and the peak (-6)? Does dialog vary so greatly (assuming there's no shouting or screaming)?
2. Does this rule apply to effects as well? E.g., general sounds like clothes rustling, cutlery...that sort of thing..would that be at -20 (or thereabouts) and follow the same principles? (Assuming these are not emphatic sounds but just background sounds)
3. About the compression part...to be honest that went over my head. But I did some research and this is what I understood: compression is done to get in more sound into lesser space, so the variation between the top and bottom dB is not too pronounced. Is that correct? Is this a standard practice in the industry?

Thanks a lot for you advice. I really appreciate it.
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Old April 9th, 2008, 07:15 AM   #9
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Thanks Steve

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Oakley View Post
I would NOT use home theater speakers. they are peaky, the supplied amps have all sorts of weird environment setups to simulate difference spaces. this applied EQ and reverb, and maybe some channel mixing for the effect. if you mix with one of them one you'll not be a happy camper.

get 5 decent near field monitors, tune them in the room, and start from there. also get some out output better then the mobo ones because almost all of them are pretty poor. do they work ? yes, do they sound as good as a decent sound IO card / interface, NO.

as for the room, one that is dead acoustically is a poor place to mix because no one will listen to a mix this way. every studio and recording studio I've been in that was good is a mix of live surfaces, diffusers, and a few strategically placed absorbers to kill bad reflections. the shape of the room is most important - square rooms, don't even think of it due to perfect standing waves. standing waves BAD. a room thats too small is also bad. don't put large speakers into a small room. most folks don't realize you only need a few watts to have plenty of loudness. I've got some 50W self-powered speakers that will drive you out of the room at more then 1/2 power.


there is a lot info out there about setting up a room for mixing. headphones do not work.so you'll need to spend some money here. personally I like the Maudio MA5's as cheap but accurate - $300/pair. they do well with dialog and don't color the sound too much. KRK's used to be nice, but now are pretty muddy for dialog work. best thing to do is make a CD with GTR, dialog, some SFX and listen to them on everything in the store. the best speakers for the job will stand out. if you don't like any of them, go somewhere else. FWIW, the best mid range speakers I heard where dynaudio's at $500 ea. that would be $2500 for you + you still need a sub.
I'll probably use a low-end studio and find a good sound engineer who'll hopefully work for free. I don't think I have the talent to do good sound. After a while everything sounds the same. But I've realized it's importance, and I'm glad I did it before I began shooting.
Thanks Steve...I appreciate it.
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Old April 9th, 2008, 07:17 AM   #10
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Thanks Bill

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
Sareesh,

Well, the technical answer is "of course."

Sound can be created on a desktop computer system in precisely the same fashion that ART can be created with a pencil and a piece of paper.

The tools have less to do with it than the TALENT.

Give someone who knows HOW to do something well, modest tools - and they'll always turn in work far superior to what you get giving excellent tools to someone who doesn't yet know how to do their job properly.

I suspect it's not going to be a matter of tools, however - but the same problem you get giving fine oil paints to a relatively new painter.

It's always talent and experience first - tools second in all the creative arts.

Good luck.
Thanks Bill...this has given me a great boost in confidence.
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